Steve McPherson is losing his No. 2.
Francie Calfo — who oversees all scripted series development and current programming for ABC Entertainment — has informed McPherson of her plans to leave the Alphabet. She’ll depart in January, once the net has picked up the bulk of its 2007-08 pilots.
Calfo’s decision may come as a surprise to many in TV land, particularly since ABC has been doing so well the past two seasons. It’s rare for an exec at Calfo’s level to ankle when things are going in the right direction.
But McPherson said he’s always expected Calfo wouldn’t stay in the exec suite for long. She joined ABC in June 2004, soon after McPherson arrived.
“When she came on board, I had to drag her in,” he told Daily Variety. “It was like ‘Godfather III’ — just when she thought she was out, I pulled her back in.”
Calfo confirmed that she “always saw this job as more of a short-term thing.
“If you look at my career, I always get a little itchy after any experience. I like to keep all my muscles flexed.”
While ABC didn’t develop a slew of scripted hits last season, net is off to a strong start this season in its bid to supplement three-year-old successes “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”
It’s still early, but “Ugly Betty,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “The Nine” all have shown promise. Net also has high hopes for laffers “Help Me Help You” and next month’s “Big Day,” among others.
Calfo has also helped McPherson perform an extreme makeover of the net’s development team while virtually rebuilding a current department from scratch.
McPherson and Calfo have been working together in one form or another for most of the past decade.
Before joining ABC, Calfo worked as a Touchstone-based producer while McPherson ran the studio. She produced the critically admired drama “Life as We Know It” under that deal.
She also spent several years working with McPherson as a Touchstone exec, working on the development of dramas such as “Alias” and “CSI.”
“She was an integral part of the drama team at Touchstone,” McPherson said, adding that he was highly appreciative of Calfo’s efforts and hoped that the network would work with her again.
“She gave me a right-hand person to turn to in the clutch, to get things done,” he said.
McPherson said he had “no immediate plans” to replace Calfo, which means that, starting in January, the heads of drama, comedy and current will all report directly to him.
While producing would be a logical step for Calfo, she said her options “are still wide open” and that she’s just started to let people know of her plans to leave the network.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’ve yet to pursue,” she said.